Progressivism vs. Populism

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

download word file, 2 pages 5.0

Between the late 19th century and the early 20th century the United States underwent some big changes. From the farms of the west to the cities of the Northeast, American politics were making a huge transition. Reconstruction was over and it was time to move on.

In 1873 the economy took a turn for the worse when banking firm Jay Cooke and Company declared bankruptcy. Jay Cooke and Company was a bank that handled a large number of railroad company?s money. This caused 89 of the 364 railroad companies in the United States to go out of business. This economic dip was bad news for farmers. The remaining railroads now had less competition which caused prices to skyrocket far past what farmers could afford to ship their food. In 1876, farmers decided to unite and form the Farmers Alliance in Lampasas, Texas, with a goal of collective economic action against brokers, railroads and even the government due to their lack of protection of the farmers.

The Alliance eventually banded with the Knights of Labor to form the Populist Party. Their main stance as a party was to allow the unlimited coinage of silver as currency. This, the Populists believed would help make the prices of their food more affordable and allow credit to flow easier through rural banks. The party also called for the direct election of state senators by the people of the state, not the state?s legislature. However, the party eventually died, it was very hard to get votes in the urban and very populated northeast because of their lack of agriculture and failure to relate to the issues of the Populists.

The death of the Populist movement initiated the birth of a new one. In the early 20th century Progressivism was created to finish what the Populists...